Too Much of a Good Thing? Trade-offs in Promotion and Prevention Focus

Abigail A. Scholer and E. Tory Higgins

in The Oxford Handbook of Human Motivation

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780195399820
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Too Much of a Good Thing? Trade-offs in Promotion and Prevention Focus

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Different kinds of motivational orientations provide distinctive ways of perceiving the world, dealing with life's inevitable slings and arrows, regulating challenges and opportunities, and creating success. In this chapter, we explore these differences in the two motivational systems outlined in regulatory focus theory: the promotion and prevention systems (Higgins, 1997). In particular, we discuss these systems in terms of the trade-offs in each; what are the benefits and costs of a strong promotion focus? What are the advantages and drawbacks of a strong prevention focus? We explore the trade-offs of each system with regard to three significant aspects of self-regulation and motivation: emotional experiences, the balance between commitment versus exploration, and performance. We conclude by discussing the importance of constraints on these systems for effective self-regulation and by suggesting avenues for future research.

Keywords: regulatory focus; motivation; self-regulation; emotion; commitment; performance

Article.  14923 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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